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D&D 5E Creating Magic Items - to attune or not to attune


Hi all,

I enjoy creating homebrew magic items, but it can be difficult to tell sometimes whether an item should require attunement or not.

For instance, I recently ran my players through The Murkmire Malevolence from Keys from the Golden Vault. In that adventure, it is possible to steal a +1 dagger and a +1 handaxe from an archaeology display. Personally I find +x items to be a bit boring, so I wanted to replace the + with something a bit more flavorful.

For the dagger, I found the needle of mending in the Wildemount book. It's a rare item, has a +1, but also lets you disguise the dagger as a sewing needle as a bonus action and cast mending from it as an action. It also requires attunement. Now, I figure if I take that item and remove the +1, the remaining benefits should be reasonable enough to downgrade to an uncommon item (the equivalent rarity of a plain +1 weapon). However, I'm not sure about the attunement. I mean, the item's description already states that you must be holding the item to cast the cantrip from it, so I'm not entirely sure why it requires attunement in the first place. I can't really see it being overpowered to not require attunement. Since it's not a combat cantrip, I can't see the party passing it around so they can each take turns spending a minute to magically mend something.

For the handaxe, however, I was thinking of making it so you can disguise it as a rock hammer and cast mold earth from it as an action. Mold earth has more uses than mending does, and it doesn't require a minute to cast. The PCs could potentially excavate an area more quickly by passing the axe around. So perhaps in this case it should require attunement, but again, I'm not really sure.

Anyone got any thoughts? What's your rule of thumb when determining if a homebrew magic item should require attunement or not?

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Dagger maybe, handaxe yes.

The passing around is a big one to avoid.

It is also good to have special items be connected to a single character. It becomes a part of their identity.

The mending part I would say no. The disguise part is the question. Do we want someone to be able to disguise it past guards and then hand it off to someone else to use or have it be for them only as the smuggling is part of their story. I'm leaning towards no as teamwork is also fun.

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